Charles River Museum of Industry & Innovation sits on the former site of the Waltham Watch Company in Waltham, MA, one of the wonders of 19th-century American industry. It's not far from the spot where Francis Cabot Lowell founded the first textile mill in America to manufacture cotton-to-finished cloth in one building, another wonder of American ingenuity. In fact, if nearby Bunker Hill and Lexington/Concord are hallowed ground for the American Revolution, this spot in Waltham would be hallowed ground for the Industrial Revolution.
Along with its textile and watch exhibits, the Museum in October launched Steampunk Form & Function--an Exhibition of Innovation, Invention and Gadgetry which celebrates art, imagination and industry. (If you are unfamiliar with steampunk, Wikipedia has a good summary here. If you have some time over the upcoming holidays and want to sample a steampunk novel, begin at the source with William Gibson's and Bruce Sterling's The Difference Engine.)
I've captured a few images of this fun exhibit from a recent visit, and would encourage you also to visit the Museum and support this important historical site.
It's easy to see why this spot along the Charles River, not far from Boston, attracted industrialists. Besides reliable water power, the entrepreneurs who founded the Waltham Watch Company were also seeking "clean air" (predecessor to the clean rooms we require for manufacturing), something hard to find in the rapidly-growing, smoky and filthy urban centers of mid-19th-century America.
A view of the Waltham Watch (and successor) site. This now houses light industry, offices, artist lofts, the Museum and other uses compatible with its suburban neighborhood.
And off we go. . .
One of my favorites: a Steampunk Trans Foraminal Image Perambulator With Stand, something no home should be without.
This is a very cool pinball machine where a winning score creates life, something that is done from time to time (as is alchemy) in steampunk novels.
Better than a Harley. Seat-warmer standard.
Just the new keyboard you need for Christmas.
Or maybe this steampunk iPhone docking station?
Or perhaps this steampunk clock for your mantel?
And what child wouldn't want a steampunk Etch-a-Sketch under the tree?
There's lots more, including additional steampunk exhibits (and lots of good background material), the Museum's superb watch exhibit, and great demonstrations on how the old factory distributed power among its machines. Elln Hagney and her team do a terrific job maintaining and growing the Museum, even as they continue recovering from a foot of floodwater earlier this year.
One last one. . .
Eat your heart out, Lucille.
The Museum even has steampunk music available, and our tribe picked up a CD on the way out the door. It wasn't exactly my or my wife's cup of tea (as we discovered on the drive home), but it sounds as if it's being loaded onto teenage MP3s around the house even as I write. . .